Blackpool went into St. Andrews holding a slim 1-0 lead and knowing that they needed an early goal to be sure of dispatching Birmingham City and assuring themselves of a place in the Championship Playoff Final. They managed better than that, scoring on either side of halftime then weathering a blue storm to book a date with Sam Allardyce's West Ham United on May 19th.
The opening spell was fairly even - the hosts hit the crossbar and Blackpool looked very dangerous whenever they got forward. With Birmingham so good at home, the tie was very much in the balance for as long as it remained 0-0, but the the deadlock was broken during first half stoppage time. Alex Baptiste attempted an overhead volley from a corner kick, and although it was completely mishit Blackpool were fortunate enough to see the ball fall to Stephen Dobbie, who was able to squeeze a shot under Colin Doyle for a 1-0 lead.
Things got even worse for Birmingham shortly after the restart when their defensive line totally lost the plot and allowed Matthew Phillips clean through on goal. He finished calmly off the post to make it 2-0 on the night, meaning that Birmingham would need three goals to take the match to extra time.
The hosts pulled one back via a neat finish from the right foot of Nikola Zigic in the 64th minute, and shortly thereafter Curtis Davies rose high to meet a corner, heading expertly past Matthew Gilks to give the hosts further hope. But despite the energy around St. Andrews and the flood of blue shirts streaming forward, Birmingham could not score again, and found themselves 3-2 aggregate losers after a thrilling match, with chances going both ways - several times - before the end.
So, it'll be one of West Ham and Blackpool that join Reading and Southampton in the Premier League for the 2012/13 season. Who've you got?